By Pastor Stephen Hess –
Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Wichita, Kansas and attend a Ligonier Ministries regional conference where hundreds of believers gathered to study the truth of God’s word. The theme of the conference was “Stand Firm”, and the speakers focused on how Christians can stand firm in their faith in a changing culture. American Christians are living in a day of ethical confusion—where many people are cold or even hostile to the things of God. In an age where Christians are increasingly viewed as “aliens” and where Biblical truth is viewed as outdated or even harmful, how should Christians respond? Dr. Stephen Nichols explained that there are generally three approaches to this question:
First, we can respond with cowardice. As the culture around us becomes more hostile to the things of God, one response that is common in our day is fear. Many Christians are afraid of the changes they see happening around them. They wonder if Christianity is dying and whether the church will still exist in the next generation. But we are not called to be fearful people. As God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, and I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). Jesus promised to build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). Therefore, we need not fall into the trap of cowardice. Satan wants us to respond to adversity with fear, but when we do this we forget that God is sovereign. As the Psalmist says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6). Or as the Apostle Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
Second, we can respond with compromise. As our culture becomes less receptive to Christianity, some have responded by accommodating their faith to the culture in order to fit in. An example of this can be seen in the early decades of the 20th century with the growth of theological liberalism. Liberalism responded to a changing culture by adapting (or in some cases abandoning!) many of the core doctrines of Christianity to make the faith more acceptable to the modern mind—an approach that is still common today. But we are warned in Scripture against this path of compromise. The Apostle Paul said that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Tim. 4:3). We are to remember that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Therefore, we must continually avoid compromise and seek to “guard the good deposit that has been entrusted to [us]” (2 Tim. 1:14).
Third, we can respond with confidence. Even though the world is rapidly changing, the Scriptures remind us that we can be a people of confidence. Where do we find our confidence? We can have confidence in God. Our confidence is not found in ourselves or in the world around us but in the God who is sovereign and promises to accomplish his purposes. As we read in Isaiah, “Remember this and stand firm…I am God, and there is none like me…my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish my purpose” (Isa. 44:8-10). We can also have confidence in God’s word. The wisdom of this world may constantly change but God’s word never changes. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). Finally, we can have confidence in the gospel. The gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). This was true centuries ago, and it remains true today.
My fellow Christians, we do live in a confusing and disturbing age. But let us not respond to this age with cowardice or compromise. Let us respond with confidence, knowing that he who called us is faithful, and therefore we can stand firm.